Poor pruning: With lion’s-tailing, thin is not always ‘in’

By: McCullough Tree Service| On: March 25, 2019

One of the many reasons to hire an expert when it comes to tree pruning or tree thinning is the tendency for non-professional tree crews to over-thin trees. We see it often here in Central Florida when a customer has had another tree service on their property. Over-thinning is also referred to as lion’s-tailing (like the shape of a lion’s tail, thin and then puffy on the end). It can weaken your tree’s branch structure. As a property owner, it’s important to ensure you have experienced, professional tree technicians on the job.

Of course, pruning — done correctly — is a beneficial tree treatment and highly recommended. By trimming back specific branches, an arbor expert removes anything that is dead, diseased or damaged. Dead, diseased or damaged braches are vulnerable branches. They are much easier invaded by decay or insects that further attack your tree’s health and potentially pose a risk to your business, home or vehicle. Thinning the tree’s canopy lets in more air and sunlight, which help fight tree disease and decay, which thrive under thick, damp, shady canopies.

In addition to removing decay and other threats to your tree’s health and the safety of your property, pruning is important to a tree’s structure, as well. As tree experts, there is a configuration of limbs and branches that we look to create or encourage, because maintaining this more-strategic support system lessens the risk of branches or limbs breaking off and falling. This is similar to the way a supporting wall works in a building — other facets of construction are anchored from that, so it’s important it’s done correctly.

Risky practice
Sometimes, though, tree services come out to a property and strip out a tree’s interior with lion’s-tailing. Much is cleaned out from inside the tree’s canopy, customers see piles and piles of brush on the ground as a result of the pruning work, and think the tree service they’ve hired has done a great job.

In reality, though, this form of sub-standard pruning means that nothing was removed from the ends of the tree’s limbs. This causes limb elongation. The lion’s-tailing encourages the crown to then be unbalanced, shifting the tree’s center of gravity up closer to the sky, exposing the now-weakened branches to not only greater wind speed, but also sunburn and cracking. They are left especially vulnerable in hurricanes like we sometimes get here in Florida.

With lion’s-tailing, if a tree has an injury — say one of your kids hits its trunk with their wagon, for example causing a cut through the bark — the sugars that the tree produces as a result of photosynthesis have a longer distance to travel to repair and mend the wound. This causes even further weakening.

Concerning a property’s visual aesthetic, meanwhile, lion’s-tailing trees look strange. Unpruned, their branches at the ends will droop and sag toward the ground, not reach up to the sky majestically as they should with proper structural support.

Tree pruning is meant to serve certain goals concerning the look, strength and structure of your tree. Unexperienced tree pruners can leave your trees vulnerable to damage and sickness. Call the experts at McCullough Tree Service and be sure lion’s-tailing isn’t part of your landscape.